by Marc O. Smith Industry of Acquiescence Washington D.C.’s, surrealism never disappoints. The latest installment arrived courtesy of the White House Correspondents Dinner and the CTPAA Forum a few weeks back. The night before cable flaks gathered at the Ritz to fine-tune their strategy of indecency acquiescence, the First Lady brought down the Hilton with a joke about the President, masturbation and a horse. C-SPAN’s inclusion in these so-called "family tiers," discussed at CTPAA, is in jeopardy. Bestiality references ain’t family fare, even on cable’s family jewel. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, she who suffers from an irrational fear of maple syrup, already has made the government determination that references on TV to homosexuality are anti-family. And don’t you dare disagree with her. She recently called critics of No Child Left Behind "un-American." Disagreeing with government content standards these days can call your patriotism into question…. Even Democrats are getting on the indecency bandwagon, although their motives differ. Any opportunity to give big business a wedgie…. All this because there is a "raging indecency fire that burns throughout America – not just Washington," CableFAX Daily wrote in its CTPAA coverage May 3. (Nice to see hyperbole is safe and sound at the FAX; my legacy is intact….) It’s very impressive that an orchestrated e-mail campaign and "values lobbying" by a relatively small group of culture vultures can create conventional wisdom that there is an indecency crisis. How many complaints do operators receive about their annual rate hikes as compared to those they get about "indecency"? Who’s burning SpongeBob dolls? Where are the op-eds? Ask your customers and viewers whether they want Congress to mandate content standards for what is accepted "family viewing." There’s your raging fire. The raging indecency fire burns not throughout America, but within the cultural warrior community that also seeks to "protect marriage," enforce a "culture of life," institute "intelligent design" curriculums, and rid the bench of "judicial activists." This isn’t about "protecting families." If parents lack the time and inclination (for certain they’ve got the ability) to monitor their children’s media consumption, the boob tube is the least of our worries. This is about extremist cultural agendas and if the CTPAA Forum is any indication, the cable industry is dangerously complicit. Talk at CTPAA of "voluntary regulation," "customer briefings" on "control technologies," and "addressing the concerns of policy makers" sure was "on message" (although nobody really covered it besides the trades). Where was the surrogate to provide outrage, not to mention cover? In its zeal to avoid "unintended consequences," the industry gift- wrapped an acquiesced lap dog. It’s also a little bit disconcerting that the new NCTA head, Kyle McSlarrow, has a history with these cultural warriors. Google him. You’ll see that if he isn’t a fraternity brother, he’s certainly a social member. We sure hope he’s lobbying the Hill on behalf of cable and its viewers, instead of lobbying the industry on behalf of Congress. Seems the current strategy is to come up with another token public affairs campaign, stick a dubious $250 million price tag on it to signify commitment ("in kind"? oh please….), bow before congressional staff, and hope it all goes away. Here’s a better idea. Stop nickel and diming customers for every bell and whistle and make DVRs a standard package. Use the "$250 million" and spring for TiVo with lifetime service for every HH. Use the leftovers for a self-congratulatory party. Meanwhile, talk to GOP pollster Frank Luntz and ask him to tell Republicans what the people think about government messing with their TV (he already has the data from his work on the media ownership debate). Then have Congress try and tell its constituents that it can make better programming choices for families than parents can. Marc O. Smith’s views are his own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff or publisher of CableFAX Daily. He can be reached at:

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Seth Arenstein reviews the week’s biggest premieres, including HBO Max’s “What Happened, Brittany Murphy?”

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